Sykesville, PA Coal Mine Explosion, Jul 1911

21 Miners Killed In Explosion In Mine At Dubois

Three Sets of Brothers and Father and Son in Tragedy

Women At Mouth Of Pit Create A Scene

Special to The Inquirer.
Dubois, Pa., July 16.-Twenty-one miners were killed last night in the greatest mining calamity that has ever taken place in this section of the country. The explosion occurred at the shaft of the Cascade Coal and Coke Company, Sykesville. The men were killed at once or died from the effects of afterdamp, as not a man survived.

The dead are: GEORGE HEEK, aged 24, single; JOHN HEEK, 20, single; S. GRASSI, 18, single; RALPH MARIAN, 23, single; CON CHICKEL, 32, married; MARIETTA GILLIA, 24, married; FRANK PAVELICK, 32, single; NICK PALECK, 45, married; ANDY PAVELICK, 15, son NICK; MIKE SLUFF, motorman, 23, single; JOHN MISSISOCK, 35, single; PLENA HANDY, 30, married; GEORGE SHEESLEY, 20, single; GROVER KUNROD, 24, single; NICK GASPER, 21, single; ROCK GASPER, 23, married; JOE KUFTA, 40, married; WILLIAM SPENCER, 25, single; JOHN MESLA, married; ANDREW KRINAK, married, and an unidentified Slav.

Rescue Party Formed

The explosion occurred shortly after 9 o’clock, and the first intimation had by those on the surface was when the safety door of the fanhouse blew open , reversing the fan. It was immediately known that something had happened and a rescue party was formed.

After going back over one mile and a half into the ground, the rescuers found the bodies of six miners piled up in a heading. It was known that about twenty-one men were at work in the headings, and the rescuers doubled their efforts, slowly working their way back. They later gathered up eleven bodies and finally reached a heading, where it is believed four other bodies are buried. This heading is the only one that is caved in to any extent.

From the stories of the men of the rescue party the explosion was light, most of the deaths resulting from the afterdamp following the explosion. Many of the men had their lunch pails with them and were headed towards the shaft bottom.

It is impossible at this time to advance any theory relative to the cause of the explosion, every man in that part of the mine being dead. From a cursory inspection, officials are of the opinion that some of the dead miners struck a small pocket of gas. Cascade shaft is a non-gaseous mine and is looked upon by inspectors as being absolutely free from contamination in this respect, open lamps being used.

For a few hours following the explosion the mouth of the shaft was a scene of the widest disorder, half crazed women seeking to go down in the cage to look after their husbands, but they were restrained. At 6 o’clock a detachment of State Police reached Sykesville and immediately established lines. Thousands of persons from all over the country went to the shaft, but there was little to see, as only six of the bodies of the victims were brought to the surface during the day.

Three sets of brothers and a father and son are numbered among the dead. GEORGE and JOHN HEEK, and NICK PAVELICK and his 15-year-old son were found by the rescuers locked in each other’s arms as though they embraced each other in their dying moments. None of the bodies was mutilated and but few showed any burns.

Six men working in another heading of the mine at the time of the accident knew nothing of the explosion until the compressed air stopped their drills and one man was knocked from his rock drill. They realized something had happened, but did not know the nature of it until they met a party of rescuers coming for them.

The Coroner’s inquest will not be held until all of the bodies have been recovered.

The United States Government rescue car from Pittsburg arrived in Sykesville at 5 o’clock, but it was not needed, as all of those in the mine were killed and the air following the explosion was pure, permitting rescue work to go on without the use of any special devices such as are carried by the rescue car.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA 17 Jul 1911